Saturday, February 4, 2023
HomeOpinionZ Allan Ntata’s Uncommon Sense:CORONAVIRUS: National Disaster or Welcome Political Gift?

Z Allan Ntata’s Uncommon Sense:CORONAVIRUS: National Disaster or Welcome Political Gift?

TOPSHOT – A staff of local NGO Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) measures a woman’s body tempreture as the NGO installs hand washing stations at the Kibera slum in Nairobi, on March 18, 2020. – African countries have been among the last to be hit by the global COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic but as cases rise, many nations are now taking strict measures to block the deadly illness. (Photo by Yasuyoshi CHIBA / AFP) (Photo by YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP via Getty Images)

Although the fear of the Covid-19 disease caused by the coronavirus is a real one, and therefore the necessity of nationwide preventive measures announced by the Peter Mutharika administration can be deemed justified, it is equally immoral for Peter Mutharika to think that he will get away with trampling on the political rights of Malawians by using this health disaster.

We have a political crisis in Malawi, which instead of solving, the president is relying on the Coronavirus situation to help him keep people silent and stay at home instead of taking to the streets in protest. Malawians need to think carefully if they will really allow this kind of heartless tactic to thwart their momentum in thwarting Mutharika and his cronies and effecting long awaited change.

The conduct of both the President and the MEC Chairperson and Commissioners has clearly demonstrated that they are not bothered with the massive public disapproval of them, which has been widely expressed through National Assembly, a Constitutionally-established representation organ of the State as well as incessant nation-wide demonstrations by the people themselves.  

For their disagreement with the court’s ruling on the length of time when New Elections should be held, the logical and ethical approach would have been to go back to the courts and ask for an extension to the 150 days and not writing their own cheque instead. They (the unholy couple of Peter Mutharika and Jane Ansah) have no right to disobey court orders and institute election dates of their own. By acting against the court Order(s), Jane is acting ultra vires. She is supposed to have been dismissed and the existing Commission disbanded and replaced.

Justice Jane Mayemu Ansah
Justice Jane Mayemu Ansah, S.C. Chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission

Perhaps Janes Ansah is of the view that because she was pulled from a pack of Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) Judges, then she is existing and transacting at MEC as a SCA Judge in which she is at liberty to review the decisions of the High Court. Should this be her mentality, she is not only misguided but also entirely incompetent. The Constitution would have been clear in highlighting that elections are to be managed by SCA. But it does not have such position anywhere within it.

Indeed, we must remember that Jane answer did say she would resign if the Constitutional Court would find and/or establish that her Commission was in the wrong. She then essentially resigned in a letter where she took a holiday pending retirement. On this particular leave, it was argued that she took leave from the SCA. Here is a situation whereby, by virtue of her leaving office pending retirement, Jane Ansah had gone to an early retirement as a judge meaning she no longer qualifies to be MEC Chair.

How all that has somehow been forgotten and Jane answer- the retiree still hold the fort at the MEC is indication of the fact she serves not the interests of Malawians but the interests of Peter Mutharika and the DPP. Mutharika and Ansah deliberately dragged their feet and were bent on overturning the 3 February Constitutional court ruling.

From as early as May soon after the mishandling of the 2019 Presidential Election (as has been adjudicated so by the competent Court of Law), the people have been mounting demonstrations aimed at forcing the resignation of the MEC Chair and the Commissioners much to their absolute defiance. A number of Court Orders, including the declaration that 50 percent plus one is an existing law, have been trashed by the condemned Commissioners led by their Chair, entailing that even the Courts have no effective power over these electoral body officers.

Thus, the coming of the Covid-19 situation seems to have been a timely and welcome development for Mutharika and MEC. It means that the opposition has no choice but to continue fashioning its competent battles from the legal ring despite a well-established reality that the governing DPP and MEC have decided to damn any outcome thereof as long as it falls to their disadvantage.

In the meantime, the Electoral Commission can continue in its defiant posture by announcing the calendar for the upcoming fresh polls. The President’s objective in inciting MEC to do this is very clear when you think about it: These moves are intended either to avoid the elections altogether, or to incite boycott of the polls by the opposition parties or potential voters affiliated to the opposition so that a “victory” may be crafted for the ruling DPP to remain in power. If the Electoral Commission will succeed in this defiance, it will have acquired full energy to blatantly rig the next round of polls knowing that their reward from the continuity of DPP in power would be abundant while exit of DPP would bring unto them proper hell for messing with the law using gloves of impunity.

What needs to be done, therefore, to arrest this glaring illegality, arrogance and impunity is for the opposition, having united as one giant force, to shift their battle to where the DPP and MEC are operating theirs. This group, which is enjoying abuse of State power and authority, has elevated its battles to a non-legal platform above the Constitutional establishment and is now using the Coronavirus as a political tool to suppress resistance. It should not be allowed to do this.

The people have a right to go out and protest and express their displeasure at the rottenness of Mutharika’s leadership and administration. The Coronavirus should not be used to suppress this right. In my uncommon sense, if the president wants to protect the people from the coronavirus, he should fire MEC commissioners, appoint new MEC personnel and sign those bills that he is defying.

I would remind the Malawian public, and especially the Malawian opposition that as commendable as legal battles and tactics that follow the rule of law are in order to achieve the outcome of getting the president to respect the wishes of Malawians and follow the rulings of the courts, freeing Malawi from this Mutharika impunity will not be guaranteed by legal battles alone. Mutharika’s reaction to the legal pronunciations to date has shown this beyond doubt. Our freedom will have to be obtained through biazo. Malawi’s freedom from the grip of lawless cabal will not be handed on a silver platter of court judgments. There has to be a resilient and effective fight.

It is apparent people need change for a better and well-governed country. These people are not only willing but also ready to participate in any liberation cause. All they need is a resolute leadership on that cause.

There is no Government on earth that is not afraid of its people and their actions. All these strange/unprecedented changes in the Army and the appointment of new judges are essentially tactics to cushion the ultimate fear for the people.

With the coming of the Covid-19, a wonderful solution seems to have been presented to Mutharika and his friends. I insist that Malawians should not allow the president to use the threat of the disease as a tactic for oppressing the will of the people. Protecting Malawians should start with protecting their political rights and thus giving them no reason to want to take to the streets in protest.

A president’s duty to obey the courts, to obey the law cannot be extinguished by the presence of an infectious disease. This country has traversed through even more serious diseases before. Peter Mutharika should not deliberately make people angry by disobeying the law and the courts, and then use a health crisis to suppress then from expressing their anger and disapproval, or to take to the streets to put pressure on him to do the right thing.

This kind of leadership is evil.

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Z. Allan Ntata
Z. Allan Ntata
Z Allan Ntata is a Barrister of Middle Temple, Anti-Corruption & Governance specialist and author of Trappings of Power: Political Leadership in Africa. Currently an Independent consultant in Governance and Anti-corruption, Ntata has a diverse background from lecturing in law to acting as legal counsel to the president of Malawi.


  1. The ConCourt judges were corrupt and their judgement is proven everyday to be incorrect as they tried to force parliament to support their findings.

  2. We and president Mutharika will not respect corrupt judges and courts. Corona-virus has come so that evil people like you Ntata and your cohorts (Chakwera, Chilima, HRDC and corrupt judges) should think again about your evil plans. Mutharika is acting within his powers.

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